Blogging, whether for pleasure or to make money, is a deceptively difficult art. On the surface it seems easy – and it seems to beckon a number of people who are eager to start businesses online, and who see blogging as the first step. Even if blogging isn’t exactly being seen in terms of a business strategy, it still seems to attract beginners to start expressing themselves and their passions online. Sometimes blogging is attractive as an additional occupation to a full-time job. Sometimes, it’s seen as an alternative to a full-time job. The trouble with most advice online, available for the beginner blogger, unfortunately, is that it assumes a level of pre-acquired knowledge. However, many mentors of bloggers agree that a lot of beginners would benefit if the available advice were really simple, easy to follow for rank newbies, less technical and more step-by-step.
Among the blogging experts who have fully understood the pain-points of tentative beginners is Alice Elliott. She has created a site full of inspirations and advice for them. Interestingly Alice’s blog is called “Fairy Blog Mother”, which is exactly what she is to newbies who need someone to wave that magic wand. Alice gets them speeding off on the blogging journey in a speed-coach that looks nothing like a non-starter pumpkin!
What is Alice Elliott’s perspective of the target audience she caters to? Her invaluable thoughts are in this interview below …
The brand name “Fairy Blog Mother” is a really memorable one. How and when did you think of it, and how did you get to start your blog?
Over a decade ago I had a wedding stationery website and someone told me about using a blog to help promote it. After I had found out my mother already had a blog (!) I started to investigate into blogging, and found out how wonderful it was. But when I told my friends about it, I was met with blank stares.
This was because blogging wasn’t as user-friendly then as it is now. I realized there was a need for something to explain blogging in an easy to understand way that anybody non-technical could cope with. I used my experience of battling with ‘techie-types’ who were unable to explain blogging simply, and translated my experiences into my ‘tutorials’ using ordinary, everyday words anyone could relate to.
The name Fairy Blog Mother came from my networking friends, and the name signifies someone with a motherly caring nature who magically waves her wand and makes everything all right! I have always tried to help as many people as I can to understand and enjoy blogging ever since.
How did you identify “beginner bloggers” as your niche, and how did you strategize your unique positioning (since there is so much info already available to those who want to start a blog)?
There are lots of websites who say they teach blogging to beginners, but I find they are pitching too high. They assume their readers already have some sort of technical knowledge beforehand, and their posts are structured accordingly.
However, there are many would-be bloggers who have absolutely no technical knowledge whatsoever, and these are the real beginners. They are also forgotten and neglected, as they tragically battle with the other ‘beginner’ websites and often give up in despair.
So I focus my tutorials and blogging explanations to those who are really starting from Level 0. They know nothing from the start, and need to have every single tiny minutiae spelt out for them throughout the process. I never assume anything, never jump ahead for repetitive actions, and provide ‘before-and-after’ visual examples to reassure my readers they are on the right track.
My videos are slowed right down. I wiggle my mouse around a lot to allow my viewers to catch up. I include a lively audio with my tutorials with lots of extra explanation and examples they can relate to. (There are many blogging videos that are both silent and go at neck breaking speed.) I explain why I’m doing something, the kind of result I am expecting, and share my happiness (and my despair) at what happens next (both good and bad). In other words, we share the journey of creating a blog!
Have you found your niche to be a lucrative one, and how has the target audience you focus on evolved over the years?
You’d think this would be lucrative, but beginner bloggers aren’t necessarily flush with their cash. The sorts of people who are real beginners are usually individuals who want to start a blog for personal reasons. Also, dare I say it, they can be difficult and require a lot of after-care support, which can be a time drain. I end up doing a lot of ‘pro bono’ stuff because of my helping nature.
Also, there is the issue of EU VAT affecting payment problems with digitally produced courses on websites. I won’t bore you with the details, but this has put a real spanner in the works over the past 3 years, making it much more difficult to offer online courses. (Hopefully this will be resolved in January, fingers crossed.)
There are always eager would-be bloggers who are keen to start a blog, but not all of them have the time or where-with-all to continue with it afterwards. And then there are those that can’t make up their minds, continuously dither about making a decision, and then disappear never to be seen again.
Blogging is often seen as a fad, which is a real shame. It does require commitment and perseverance. Not everybody has this, hence why 95% of blogs are abandoned. But I am working on putting together future courses to rectify this affliction, so watch this space!
You seem to have a great grip on the beginner-blogger. What kind of budgets and earning expectations do starter-bloggers have when they begin? Does it help to let them have their starting-highs or to tell them what realities to expect via blogging?
If someone wants to start a blog, they really need a proper focus and goal. It’s the same as getting a dog for Christmas, which needs to be fed, walked and looked after for all of its life. Unlike a dog a blog will survive a spot of neglect, but not for too long. But it isn’t like a toy whose can be played with for a bit, and then have its batteries taken out and shoved in a cupboard out of sight and out of mind.
You can set up a ‘free’ blog if you want to cut your teeth with blogging. This is how I started, using WordPress.com. This way if you do abandon your blog, you won’t be out of pocket. However, if you want to develop your blog further, it’s worth spending money on a hosting account, which varies from £3 a month, and buying a proper domain name, which also varies from £3 a year. This will give you a WordPress.org blog, which allows you ‘carte blanche’ on your blog, so you can do whatever you like with it.
If you are experimental, you could add your own theme (template) and get started. If you want a prettier blog, it might be worth your while investing in a decent web designer. If you want your blog to help promote your business, you will need to find a good digital marketer to help you. If you manage to find someone who has both qualifications (like me!) then you will be in a much better position!
In your experience, what are the characteristics you’ve noticed in those who are eventually successful bloggers versus those who lose steam or give up? What motivates the successful ones to keep going?
A good blogger will have created a suitable editorial calendar and have a reasonably long list of blogging subjects. The professional blogger will have a stack of draft blogs ready to be worked on, and will connect them to the other activities that’s happening with their business or life. The answer is to be ultra organised, fully focused and totally understand the benefits of blogging so that you never want to give up.
It also helps if you have a subject that attracts a lot of readers. It’s no good putting your head down writing about something nobody wants to read. A blog thrives on its readers, so not only do you have to find something that is popular or extremely needed, you need to encourage your readers to participate in your blog as commenters. A blog is like an online community, if it is pitched right, and this can be enhanced through a conversational writing style and a desire to communicate with your followers.
Motivation comes from interaction. A lot of bloggers get this from social media. But blogs were created long before this, as back in the old days of Web 2.0 it was exciting to be able to have your say on a blog and publish your comment in situ there and then. In spite of this, if you have a lively audience who are active on all forms of social media (which includes blogs), and can beat back the spammers and trolls with worthy and relevant commentary to stop them from ruining your day, you will always find the time and subject matter to keep on writing for them.
What have you noticed as the predominant reasons why people want to start blogging? Is it the expectation of income via blogging … or the joys of self-expression … or a way to stay occupied … or anything else?
People start a blog for a variety of reasons: help promote a business, somewhere to dump their ideas, an online diary as somewhere to express themselves, even to eventually make some money.
But the last reason is where they usually fall down. It is notoriously difficult to make money only from your blog alone. You will need a vast, regular audience, a massive amount of web traffic every day, a subject that is instantly attractive, adverts that bring in good returns, products people what to buy, and the ability to write and post several times a day. If you can’t manage that, then blogging for money is not viable for you.
Blogging is either a pastime or a digital marketing tool. Successful writers may even win a book deal or film rights if their subject attracts a suitable agent, but most bloggers are just happy to write what comes into their heads. Business blogging can help increase traffic to a website as long as it is regularly updated, combined with suitable SEO tactics applied in the most appropriate places.
But successful bloggers have got where they are by purely hard work. None of them have sat on their hands and moaned about how hard it is. They have found out the correct way to do it, have applied the right methods, used the best people and delivered the sort of content people want to read. And above all, they have been persistent and consistent in their blogging activities.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
Who is your ideal reader? Get to know them inside out. What makes them tick? What are their needs, wants, desires, pain, problems and woes? Write all your posts only for them (not for yourself). This means understanding what they want to read, what interests them, what would inspire them to comment, to share on social media, to tell their friends about you.
Develop a conversational writing style that suits your readers, and deliver the kind of content they want to read. Make sure your writing is the best you can do, by maintaining its quality, relevance and suitability at all times.
And remember your readers are the raison d’être of your blog, as without them it would fail to exist. They are more important than you, so make them feel comfortable and part of your blog, creating a sort of community for them. Ask for their opinion, advice and feedback, and learn what you can from them to improve your blog.
Which tools do beginner-bloggers most need? In which areas do they usually look for external help from a mentor like yourself?
Develop a good writing style. This is important if you want to get lots of readers that regularly return to your blog. Ideally it should be in a conversational mode, similar to a transcription as if you were talking with them in a coffee shop or down the pub. Your readers need to be able to relate to what you say, so use the same words they would also use and refer to examples and anecdotes that resonate with their lives and aspirations.
Find a proper subject that you can keep writing about and isn’t in danger of drying up after a few weeks. Once you’ve chosen it, it is important to maintain your focus by exploring it in as many ways as you possibly can.
Your blog should have a good theme that is responsive (adapts to small screens) and is well designed for user experience (made easy for your visitors to use and understand). This is actually more important than how pretty it looks.
Every beginner blogger needs a basic foundation about blogging which they can build on. If they don’t understand the most important elements, the more technical stuff they encounter later on will be that much more difficult to cope with. Also if they don’t complete the settings properly, the performance of their blog may be reduced too.
What are the three greatest joys you get from your own blog – and from helping others to learn blogging?
1. I like to focus on writing well. There is a lot of bad content written by people who don’t know how to write. This is a sorry phenomenon nowadays, even from those who are employed to do this. I get countless guest posting drafts from so-called article and essay writing services, and sometimes their efforts are abysmal! So I strive for the best quality I can with my writing, to show them how it should be done (if they can be bothered to notice it in the first place).
2. It is most gratifying when people benefit from the wisdom I have shared when they take it away and implement it in their own blogs. I love it when people come up to me and say they have achieved something because they read it from my blog, or heard me talk about it at one of my workshops. It makes all my efforts worthwhile.
3. I like to find subjects that people want to read, and then deliver them in a way they can easily understand. I particularly enjoy creating Infographics and Quizzes to explain my post’s topic as an alternative structure. All kinds of readers need to be catered for, not just by providing a load of words. I also enjoy searching for good images to enhance the visual aspect of my blog.
Want to get in touch with Alice Elliott?
Drop by Alice’s website: Fairy Blog Mother
Write to Alice via her website: Contact Form
Follow Alice on Twitter: http://twitter.com/alice_elliott
Follow Alice on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FairyBlogMother
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